On Tuesday, the Colonial Pipeline was shut down for the second time, and over 11,000 gas stations throughout the country remained closed due to fuel shortages. During the second shutdown, fuel costs have risen to their highest level in seven years.
New Colonial Pipeline gas outages
Colonial Pipeline revealed that its pipeline had been shut down for the second time due to continuing "hardening efforts" to resume fuel supply. In a series of tweets, the company said the Tuesday shutdown was "not linked to ransomware or any form of reinfection," unlike the May 7 shutdown, as per Newsweek.
In a Tuesday tweet, the pipeline company said, "Our internal server that operates our nominating scheme suffered intermittent delays this morning...We're working hard to get our nominating scheme back up and running, and we'll keep our shippers updated."
Colonial Pipeline continues to make substantial progress in safely moving other’s product throughout our pipeline system. We can now report that we are transporting refined products (gasoline, diesel and jet fuel) at normal levels and are fully operational.— Colonial Pipeline (@Colpipe) May 17, 2021
Per Newsweek, the closure happened when over 11,670 gas stations across the country stayed closed due to fuel shortages. The gas prices in the United States have hit their highest level in seven years.
Gas rates are a dollar or higher in certain states than they were a year before. A Georgia gas station temporarily cost $7.99 per gallon, but the station owner said it was a mistake rather than price gouging.
Consumers' "panic-buying" and hoarding extra gasoline to ensure their engines keep going has compounded the resulting fuel shortages. Some gas stations have had miles-long queues as a result of the buying spree. When gas contained in portable tanks ignited, several vehicles burned. Following the pipeline's initial closure, 17 states released emergency orders, requesting that the federal government assist with re-routing gasoline to avoid shortages.
South still suffers under fuel shortages
Last week's shutdown of the 5,500-mile pipeline grid was the most destructive cyberattack in history, halting the supply of millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. According to monitoring company GasBuddy, about 10,000 filling stations were still without fuel as of Tuesday, down from more than 16,000 at the high last week.
Almost 70 percent of gas stations in Washington DC were now without fuel, down from 90 percent over the weekend, Daily Mail reported. Nearly half of the gas stations in North Carolina were still without fuel. 40.3 percent of gas stations in South Carolina were dry, led by 37.5 percent in Georgia and 25.2 percent in Virginia.
According to the AAA Gas Price Index, the national average price of gas fell marginally on Tuesday to $3.043, after breaking $3 for the first time since 2014. Colonial has been using its shipper nominating scheme to arrange batches of fuel supplies to get flows back to normal as shippers race to keep up with demand.
Hackers reportedly received $90 million in bitcoin ransom payment
According to CNBC, DarkSide, the hacker group behind the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, received $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments before shutting down last week. Colonial Pipeline was struck by a destructive cyber attack earlier this month, forcing the company to shut down nearly 5,500 miles of pipeline in the US, weakening gas distribution systems in the Southeast. The FBI blamed the attack on DarkSide, a cybercriminal gang based in Eastern Europe, to whom Colonial is said to have paid a $5 million ransom.
DarkSide uses a business model known as "ransomware as a service." The hackers create and market ransomware software, which they then sell to other criminals who use them to carry out attacks. Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts data and prevents users from accessing it. In exchange for restoring entry, hackers claim a ransom payment, usually in cryptocurrencies.
Elliptic, a London-based blockchain analytics company, said DarkSide and its allies received at least $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments from 47 victims in the last nine months. It added that the annual payout from organizations was likely $1.9 million.